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Posts tagged "Anne Lamott"


On Our Bookshelf (This Time Around)

As summer winds down, here’s what we’ve been reading over here at Mockingbird HQ (and on sabbatical), as published in the Love & Death Issue

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

George Saunders’ widely acclaimed first novel addresses death, grief, and the afterlife. Narrated by a graveyard full of, um, lively ghosts, this novel is a roller coaster from start to finish. With humor and empathy, Saunders powerfully illustrates that “the truth will set you free.”

Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott

Published this spring, Lamott continues to sing the song of grace: “Mercy is radical kindness. Mercy means offering or being offered aid in desperate straits. Mercy is not deserved. It involves forgiving the debt, absolving the unabsolvable.” Pulling from St. Augustine and the Dalai Lama, she weaves her thoughts on mercy with such honesty and humor that you might feel like you’re sitting down as one of her Sunday School students.

The Kingdom by Emmanuel Carrère

Emmanuel Carrère’s new book (novel? memoir? biography?) on St. Paul and the early Christians often reads like a diary fused with historical fiction. Carrère, well-known in France for his unique non-fiction storytelling, believes that the only way he can really communicate a subject is by looking as honestly as possible at himself. In this book, then, that means capturing the New Testament through his own relationship with and (un-)belief in its God. A powerfully honest and captivating reimagining of both the nature of belief and the radical message Paul carried.

The Unmade Bed: The Messy Truth about Men and Women in the 21st Century by Stephen Marche

Stay-at-home dads get no respect, women are still almost never in the boardroom, and feminism has failed us. Why, Marche ponders, have we come so far and are still inundated with the same bizarre problems? Because women are still women and men are still men, and no one wants to make the damned bed. If you are in ministry, your premarital counseling couples should read this brilliant book alongside Capon’s Bed and Board.

My Utmost: A Devotional Memoir by Macy Halford

Halford, who spent several years working as a staffer at The New Yorker, writes with immense care and loyalty about the devotional that shaped (and continues to shape) her life, Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. Halford, who was raised in an Evangelical family in Dallas, uses the devotional (and Chambers’ own life story) as a way of excavating her own life and Christian faith.

Against Everything: Essays by Mark Greif

Greif is the co-founder of culture magazine n+1. This book synthesizes the strangeness of the modern world by challenging it and unpacking everyday taboos like exercise, hipsters, and punk music. Greif shows his cards as an Enneagram 8, but that doesn’t stop him from writing some real sizzlers on everyday life through a decidedly intellectual lens.

Abandon Me: Memoirs by Melissa Febos

One of our guests on The Mockingcast, Febos’ cutting collection of memoirs wrestles with addiction and sexuality and offers up a gratifying depth of spirituality. Her riff on the Jonah story and our innate calling towards “choose your own adventure stories” is one for the ages. She writes, “every love is a sea monster in whose belly we learn to pray.”

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

Ripping its title from a Dostoevsky classic, Elif Batuman’s debut novel follows Selin through her first year at Harvard. Upon arriving at school, she’s given an email address, her first. One night, she sends a snappy message to Ivan, the mysterious boy in her Russian class, and hilarity ensues. The romance would fit well in a 19th century novel—excepting Selin and Ivan’s preferred form of communication. Armed with a healthy suspicion of her surroundings and a sharp wit, Selin makes for a revelatory, refreshing narrator.

Why Won’t You Apologize? Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts by Harriet Lerner

This little book ranks up there with our other social science fave, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me). Lerner gives us a powerful glimpse into all the strategies and self-deceptions we have around our wrongdoing–on what counts as an apology, and on what keeps us from giving (and receiving) it. She also insightfully keys in on the prime impulse that makes the non-apologizer a non-apologizer: the need to be perfect.

Phases: Poems by Mischa Willett

Poems playful, at times, epigrammatic, conscious of things Italian and incongruous—they are delightful and plain spoken, rhythmic and musical, at times difficult enough to slow the reader’s march through them, most times sufficiently welcoming and placed (e.g., the Pacific Northwest) to keep the reader coming back for more. The collection’s nine brief sections are laid out as though phases of a voyage. An exciting new volume in the Poiema Poetry Series (Cascade Books), curated by poet/editor D. S. Martin.

Hallelujah Anyway: Anne Lamott's Latest on Rediscovering Mercy

Hallelujah Anyway: Anne Lamott’s Latest on Rediscovering Mercy

I have loved Anne Lamott since I read her first memoir, Traveling Mercies, when I was in law school. In a world where I was, quite literally, surrounded by law, I heard grace in her words, and it was the drink I didn’t even know I was thirsty for. Later, Lamott’s Operating Instructions, her memoir about her son’s first year, prepared me for motherhood in a way that all of the What to Expect books failed to do.

Naturally, I wanted to share my enthusiasm for my favorite lay theologian with my friends, some of whom scoffed at Lamott’s personal history: how could they…

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Unshackle the Should: An Overlong Post on the Art of Failure (and the Failure of Art)

Unshackle the Should: An Overlong Post on the Art of Failure (and the Failure of Art)

I had the honor of presenting earlier this week at “The Art of Failure” event here in Charlottesville, alongside Invisbilia co-host Lulu Miller and musician Devon Sproule. You can listen to all of the recordings on the Christ Church site, but here’s the modified/edited transcript, the first portion of which is adapted from A Mess of Help. Sincerest thanks to New City Arts and The Garage for co-sponsoring! What a fabulous evening.

In 1966, The Walker Brothers reportedly had a bigger fan club in the UK than The Beatles. Boggles the mind but it’s the truth, or close to it. The…

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The Gospel's Steady Work of Reversal

The Gospel’s Steady Work of Reversal

David Brooks’ most recent op-ed discusses the late career of Ernest Hemingway, how he became in his later years “a prisoner of his own celebrity.” Hemingway was a famous writer by 25 and by middle age he was simply “playing at being Ernest Hemingway.” Of course, this is where most of us might roll our eyes, and say few are so lucky. It’d be nice to a prisoner to your laurels instead of your demons. But when it comes down to it, Brooks isn’t just talking about fame. He is instead talking about works righteousness in a most literal sense: that becoming righteous (or noteworthy,…

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The Grammar Police Gives It a Rest

The Grammar Police Gives It a Rest

This one comes to us from a new writer and friend, Emily Sherrod.

Deep in the recesses of my pajama drawer, there’s a t-shirt featuring a cartoon policeman and the label “grammar police.” It’s a relic from my high school years—when I was a little too proud of my SAT writing scores and all too willing to share my grammar knowledge with anyone around me. It has since been demoted to my pile of never-wear-out-of-the-house clothes.

Since I’ve been working at the writing center at my university, I have had plenty of appointments with students who “just need a grammar check.” As all writing…

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The Five Rules of Being A Grown-Up

The Five Rules of Being A Grown-Up

Anne Lamott, bestselling author of Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, posted a video in late August during which a couple of “sweet, wild” Jesuits interviewed her and her good friend Father Tom Weston. They discussed the value of humor and exhaustion, Match.com, and the Pope. It’s 45 minutes, and definitely worth the watch, but I’ve pulled some quotes in case you’re a skimmer and not a listener.

In the beginning, she shares some of her own spiritual story, explaining that despite growing up with atheist parents and actively resisting Christianity (4:35):

“I always felt the presence of God. I always felt…

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The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

Our family of four was shopping the other day (and by shopping, I mean my husband was pushing a cart stuffed with two whining kids while I looked for an escape hatch) when we dead-ended into one of those homespun signs that make me cringe a little. I read the words, looked at my husband, and rolled my eyes forcefully enough that I’m still waiting to hear back from the ophthalmologist. “GOD,” I hissed in a combination of prayer, exasperation, and self-righteousness. “So now it’s the non-cleaners’ turn to define what’s good?”

Full disclosure: I am one of the cleaners. To the…

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The Agony of Getting Everything You Want

The Agony of Getting Everything You Want

Newly minted billionaire Markus Persson of Minecraft fame (if you don’t know what Minecraft is, ask any boy aged 8-12) is not happy. A series of tweets from early Saturday morning went as follows:

4:48am: The problem with getting everything is you run out of reasons to keep trying, and human interaction becomes impossible due to imbalance.

4:50am: Hanging out in ibiza with a bunch of friends and partying with famous people, able to do whatever I want, and I’ve never felt more isolated.

4:51am: In sweden, I will sit around and wait for my friends with jobs and families to have time to do shit,…

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Every Single Thing Anne Lamott Knows

Every Single Thing Anne Lamott Knows

Perhaps you’ve seen Anne Lamott’s Facebook post that went viral over the weekend, in which she lists “every single thing she knows” on the eve of her 61st birthday (which turns out to be fifteen things)? If not, do yourself a favor. Filled with characteristic wit and wisdom, not to mention memorable turns of phrase, it’s a crash course in effective communication, especially in regards to Christianity. In fact, it’s enough to make a person wonder: why is it that so many of the most compelling religious voices these days belong to women in recovery? It’s almost uncanny. Whatever the…

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When the Grief Index Backfires

When the Grief Index Backfires

The church I attend is trying to reboot their “pastoral care ministry”, which is one of those amorphous seminary terms for something that could (and maybe should) mean more than it intends. Isn’t the job of a pastor to care? I got a little worried when I heard ours needed rebooting! I haven’t gone to seminary, but it doesn’t take long in a tour of church websites to see what is generally meant by pastoral care: hospital visits, home visits, prayer shawls, marriage counseling, baptisms, funerals. In other words, pastoral care has a lot to do with the church sharing…

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It's Not/All About the Numbers

It’s Not/All About the Numbers

via thisisindexed.com

The NY Times tossed us quite a softball this week in the form of Bruce Feiler’s “The United States of Metrics”. The premise of the article is a familiar one: the advent of ‘smart’ technology has allowed us to quantify things that we couldn’t quantify before, from the steps we take per day to the friends we have to the size of our carbon footprint, and as a result, we are “awash in numbers. Data is everywhere.” It may sound alarmist, but Feiler tempers the diagnosis with some fascinating trivia and bits of humor. For example:

Samsung just added…

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The Dopamine Thrill of Winning and Suspended Animation

The Dopamine Thrill of Winning and Suspended Animation

Did you get to check out The Atlantic piece DZ quoted in last week’s weekender, “Parents Ruin Sports for Their Kids by Obsessing About Winning”? As soon as I read it, I knew taking a closer look was inevitable this week in Mbird sports!

DZ was right, the title is anything but subtle. In the piece, Lisa Endlich Heffernan admits to her own proneness to turning athletics into an avenue for performancism, not just for her child but for herself:

Every sports cliche you can think of, I have uttered: teamwork, respect for the coach, being part of something bigger than yourself,…

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